Yes, today's post is about one of the finest Commodore shoot 'em ups ever. It's another game I bought the first chance I got... no waiting for the second-hand shop this time. There was always a special kind of excitement when you bought a new full-price game. You'd spend the bus journey home poring over the instructions, maybe letting your mate have a look at the inlay while you familiarised yourself with the game before you'd even played it. It's not the same now, with demos and YouTube videos available well before the games are released. I think we've lost a little bit of the air of anticipation.
|Just once, I'd love to see one of those walkers fall off the ceiling.|
If you haven' t read it before, then you still might feel nostalgic as you think back to the time when you loaded up this ZZAP! 64 Gold Medal winner and had your mind blown. Armalyte was grander in scope and ambition than probably any 8-bit computer shmup had previously shown, and was lapped up by any fans of arcade blasters with half a brain.
|I'm blue, bah-dn-bee, bah-dn-bouw.|
Armalyte is a game that takes every other shoot 'em up on the Commodore 64, and ramps up all their best bits by a few notches. It starts in classic Nemesis/Gradius fashion, with your ship flying from left to right as waves of enemies barrel toward you, intent on your destruction. The power-up system is different, though... rather than collecting pods left behind by the destruction of enemy formations, as in Konami's classic, weapons pods are found floating in space, and you activate them by blasting them.
|For some reason I fancy a trip to Red Lobster now.|
There are a few things that elevate Armalyte beyond the bog-standard shooter. The first thing you're likely to notice is the number of opposing ships that you have to deal with. The attack waves come thick and fast, with each containing a good number of enemies. They're relentless, and they're difficult to deal with as they whip about at an often alarming rate. It's overwhelming at first, and you'll find yourself crushed into space dust far more often than you'd like.
|What's that? The last one wasn't a boss? This is the boss? Ohhh, damn...|
There's quite a bit of variety to the levels, which is highly commendable. OK, so the game loads each level separately, but I can think of plenty of multiload games that didn't try so hard. The levels change in colour as you move through them, and each has its own style, giving the game a massive sense of scale.
|Ha! Eat laser death, you giant, flying pincer thing.|
|This lot almost make The Red Arrows look dull!|
You can bet it'll have a place in the book, probably with nice big screenshots too. Hopefully there'll be some accompanying words from the lads behind it as well. It's no accident that it's consistently in "Best of C64" lists... it's one of the crowning glories of its time.